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Abd al-Rahman I was the founder of the Umayyad dynasty in Spain, and he was one of the last Umayyad survivors when the Abbasid overthrew the Umayyad caliphate in Damascus. According to what I read, he fled Damascus, travelled west on low profile, and finally arrived in Spain after 6 years missing. In Spain he quickly amass support, defeat the local Muslim ruler and install himself as Emir. For example, Wikipedia said

Abd-ar-Rahman I became Emir of Córdoba in 756; fleeing for six years after the Umayyads had lost the position of Caliph held in Damascus in 750. Intent on regaining a position of power, he defeated the existing Islamic rulers of the area who defied Umayyad rule and united various local fiefdoms into an emirate.

I'm curious how the people in Spain verified that he was in fact Abd al-Rahman, the Umayyad prince, because:

  • He travelled on low profile, so I guess this also mean without strong troops or obvious indicator of being a royal
  • Spain was pretty far from Damascus, so probably Spaniards have less idea about how Umayyad princes look or how to verify them
  • He didn't seem to be an important prince, like the heir to the throne, he just happened to be one of the survivor.
  • Yet enough people in Spain believed him to allow him to take over.
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This could possibly be expanded to a question of how people would prove their identity in the Caliphate in general. –  Lennart Regebro Aug 25 '13 at 11:18
    
Excellent question! Perhaps he had some family relics or something? –  Felix Goldberg Aug 25 '13 at 13:18
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@FelixGoldberg Even if he did, how did people from Spain verify relics from a ruling family previously based in Damascus? –  Fitri Aug 25 '13 at 15:30
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I'd like to start a bounty on this, but I can't, because I'll end up rewarding the existing "answer", even though it does in fact not answer the question at all. Annoying. –  Lennart Regebro Nov 17 '13 at 8:52
    
@LennartRegebro AFAIK you can "just assign a bounty to a specific answer", unless they have changed everything again... –  Lohoris Nov 20 '13 at 16:38
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2 Answers

Peter C. Scales:The Fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba: Berbers and Andalusis in Conflict (Medieval Iberian Peninsula, Vol 9), the source linked in the answer by @Mr.lock / @Kobunite

actually hints at a plausible answer to OP's question, namely that

  • Abd al-Rahman was recognized when he arrived in al-Andalus because members of the Umayyad family had already established themselves there.

Relaying accounts by Muslim historians Scales says (p112) that already in 121AH/739AD some 30,000 soldiers, among them 10,000 Umayyads, had been sent westwards by Calpih Hisham.

A vanguard of this detachment, some 7,000 Umayyads, found themselves besieged by Berbers in Ceuta, and appealed to the governor of al-Andalus to be allowed to cross the Gibraltar.

As he agreed these 7,000 would become the second wave of Arabs to settle in Spain.

So when Abd al-Rahman landed in al-Andalus 755AD he would be able to count on the support from his own kin.

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According to Wikipedia, Abd al-Rahman were born in 731, so if those people had met with him before, it must have been when he'd been 8 years old or younger. Do you think they could recognize him in 755? –  Fitri Nov 21 '13 at 5:18
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@Fitri He might have been accompanied by older family members known to the kinfolk; if I'm not mistaken the grandfather of Abd al-Rahman was the same Caliph who sent these people westwards in the 730's. –  Mario Elocio Nov 21 '13 at 5:54
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Abd al-Rahman I's mother was a Moor from a tribe called Nafra (click the link for pg 111). That helped him to be recognized first in Morocco and then in Islamic Spain as well.

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Actually, this answer makes a very good point. I don't see why people downvoted it (the form is a bit messy but the substance is good!). –  Felix Goldberg Aug 28 '13 at 9:27
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I agree, but it would be good if there were some sources quoted to verify it. –  Kobunite Aug 28 '13 at 10:14
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@FelixGoldberg: aside from the poor copyediting, there is no reference and it does not adequately explain why having a mother from tribe Nafra help the son to be recognized in Morocco and Spain. –  Louis Rhys Aug 28 '13 at 10:14
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I, somehow, managed to link directly to page 111. It's stupidly difficult to link to specific pages on Google Books. :S Great find T.E.D! :-) –  Kobunite Aug 28 '13 at 14:49
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"That helped him to be recognized first in Morocco and then in Islamic Spain as well." - How? I don't think this answers the question at all. –  Lennart Regebro Oct 17 '13 at 15:11
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